Despite scoring 71 goals and 180 points in just 72 games in his last year of junior hockey, Michel Mongeau was never drafted by the National Hockey League.
Mongeau signed on as a free agent with the IHL's Saginaw Generals, and turned in a strong rookie year. He found the net 42 times while assisting on 53 other goals en route to winning the Garry F. Longman Memorial Trophy as the IHL's top rookie. Yet Mongeau was still disappointed as his fine season still translated into zero interest from the NHL.
Frustrated, Mongeau took an offer to play in France for a year in 1987-88, but returned to the IHL in 1988-89. This time he stepped up his play even higher. He led the league with 76 assists and was near the top with 117 points.
This time the NHL noticed, specifically the St. Louis Blues. The Blues signed the elusive skater to a contract, though Mongeau must have known that he would most likely be returned to the IHL for most of the year. And that's exactly what happened. Mongeau had a monster season in 1989-90, leading the IHL with 78 assists and 117 points. He was named to the First All Star Team and won the Leo Lamoureux Trophy as the top scorer and the James Gatschene Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player! He will always be remembered as one of the greatest players in IHL history.
Mongeau also realized a dream, as he was recalled by the Blues late in the season. He responded well, scoring one goal and 5 assists in 7 games. He looked right at home on a power play unit that included Brett Hull. Mongeau even got into two NHL playoff contests, contributing 1 assists in 2 games.
Unfortunately Mongeau couldn't make the next leap. He played only 7 games for the Blues in 1990-91, instead returning to Peoria of the IHL. His stats slipped just slightly, falling to "just" 106 points. But Mongeau had a dominant IHL playoffs. In 19 games he scored 10 goals and a league leading 16 assists for 26 points en route to winning the IHL championship. For his efforts, Mongeau was rewarded with the Bud Poile Trophy as the IHL's playoff MVP.
Mongeau got his best shot in the NHL in 1991-92. After again tearing up the IHL in stints which accumulated to 32 games, Mongeau spent half a season in the NHL with the Blues. In 36 contests he tapped in 3 goals (2 on the power play) and 12 helpers for 15 points. He was used primarily as a power play specialist, as his size and lack of defensive play (he was okay defensively, but not great) really hindered him at the NHL level. Mongeau described his NHL stint as "too short" but had no regrets.
The Tampa Bay Lightning claimed Mongeau from St. Louis in the 1992 expansion draft. Many though that Mongeau would get a good shot with a lowly expansion team, but he only appeared in 4 contests with the Bolts, and spent most of the year in the minors. In February 1993 he was sent with fellow Francophone Martin Simard and Steve Tuttle to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for big winger Herb Raglan. However Mongeau never appeared in a Nords jersey.
By 1993-94 Mongeau returned to Peoria, this time without an NHL affliation. He was tired of bouncing around and wanted to return to site of his best years. He would also move on to continue his career in Europe
In the mid 1990s, Mongeau was the victim of a terrible on-ice incident involving Chris Tamer, a future NHLer.
"I was skating toward the goal and I stopped to fake a shot on goal. That’s when Tamer caught up with me and cross-checked me from behind. I fell head first on the goal post and got 7 fractures to the face : upper-jaw, left cheek, nose and both eye sockets. I now have 3 metal plates in my face. The rehab was very difficult and painful. My jaw was wired for a month and my face was very sensitive. Eating with a straw is quite an adventure and a very good way to lose weight... It took 10 months before I could play again and it changed my style drastically." said Mongeau.
Mongeau sued Tamer for damages, but got no compensation.
"At the first trial, we got no result because a ‘strong woman’ in the jury made it turn into a mistrial. At the second trial, the jury side with me but also decided that it was an accident. Go figure. I didn’t get any compensation and my lawyer got $60,000 in debt."
Mongeau returned to Laval where he continued to play senior hockey until 2004.
In May 2010 Mongeau succumbed to skin cancer. Survived by his wife and two children, he was just 45 years old. He will forever be remembered in hockey circles as a scoring machine.